Tom DeBlass: An Epic BJJ and MMA Journey

Table of Contents

Grappling. Foot locks. Straight talk with lots of advice and humor. These are among the things that make BJJ legend Tom DeBlass a wildly popular figure on and off the mats today. 

A lot of people follow Tom DeBlass because he’s a powerful and technical fighter and a great influencer with a ton of followers. He uses his social media to give insight into what it’s like being him, the BJJ lifestyle, improving yourself in a positive manner, and how things work in our society today. 

Let’s take a closer look at this well-decorated and prolific BJJ and MMA fighter

Who Is Tom DeBlass?

Tom Deblass Kimura
Tom Deblass Kimura

Tom DeBlass is one of the most elite Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA fighters in the world. A renowned submission specialist, Tom trained with Ricardo Almeida and later earned his black belt under him. He is a Pan American Jiu-Jitsu Champion, ADCC American National Absolute Champion, No Gi World champion, Abu Dhabi Trial Champion, UFC, Bellator and ONE fighter, Grapplers Quest Nationals and Worlds Expert Division Champion, and American National Jiu-Jitsu Champion. 

He began his professional career fighting for the Ring of Combat promotion, winning all seven of his fights – four of which coming via knockout and another two coming via submission! Only a year and a half into fighting for the Ring of Combat, and he bagged both the heavyweight and light heavyweight titles and got a call from the UFC. He dedicated five years of his life to the pursuit of his MMA goals.

In 2006, he opened his own Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy, Ocean County Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He went on to train some of the most elite BJJ fighters, such as Garry Tonon, Jen Allen Russell, Kyle Cranmer, and Gordon Ryan. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, though, wasn’t his first foray into martial arts.

Tom DeBlass Grappling
Tom DeBlass Grappling


The Early Years

Thomas DeBlass was born on May 14, 1982, in New Jersey. You can say that Tom was pretty much a natural-born athlete.  At 5 years old, he began training taekwondo. At 13, he earned a red belt, the highest belt before earning a black belt, before stepping away from the sport. 

Tom DeBlass had turned to sports to channel all the negativity that surrounded him while growing up. He had a rather tough childhood, as his father suffered from substance abuse, which affected his family and home life. 

In his teenage years, he fell in love with and regularly competed in track and field. He progressed to become one of the top long jump athletes in his state. Unfortunately, a devastating injury put a halt to his athletic career when he was 18. He tore the ligaments and tendons in his foot. 

Having participated in high-level competitions, the injury left a void that he needed to fill. This is how he found the gentle art of BJJ and mixed martial arts when he was 19. He found a way to train and compete around his injury. 

He first trained with Eric Colon but, not long after, moved to train under Ricardo Almeida. Tom was soon promoted to blue belt and worked his way up. After only six years of training, he earned the coveted black belt.

Tom DeBlass also earned his college degree in Special Education and taught at a local elementary school. This honed his teaching skills and foreshadowed his future as a BJJ coach, a career he started when he was 24 years old. He went on to train some of the BJJ world’s most famous competitors while competing himself in top-level BJJ competitions, such as ADCC and Grapplers Quest.

Tom DeBlass Omoplata
Tom DeBlass Omoplata

He was instrumental in the development of close to 30 black belts of his own and growing Ocean County Brazilian Jiu Jitsu into over 400 students which is considered one of the best BJJ schools in the US. Tom DeBlass has also opened a number of academies across the US, Canada, Costa Rica, and Argentina. He has also released BJJ instructional videos, further impacting an even broader audience. Tom is considered one of the best BJJ instructors in the world and is widely sought out on the BJJ seminar circuit.

Retirement from MMA

His career with the UFC promotion wasn’t so smooth. On April 14 at UFC on FUEL TV 2, Tom DeBlass debuted in the UFC. He got a call at the last minute to step in for an injured Jorgen Kruth and fly to Sweden to fight Cyrille Diabate. He was defeated via a majority decision. Tom DeBlass fought again but also lost a unanimous decision to Riki Fukuda on UFC on Fuel TV 6.

Tom DeBlass MMA
Tom DeBlass MMA

After back-to-back defeats in the Octagon, and following the bout with Fukuda in the UFC which took place on November 12, 2012, DeBlass decided to retire from the MMA, posting this on Facebook:

“After a lot of talk with my family and coaches, I have decided to retire from fighting and focus on my family, my academy, and helping my students to achieve their goals.”

On April 4, 2013, Tom got back inside the cage under the Bellator banner and proceeded to win against Carlos Brooks via TKO and UFC veteran Jason Lambert via knockout.

After that jaw-dropping knockout victory over Jason Lambert in November 2013, Tom DeBlass announced his retirement from mixed martial arts to focus entirely on BJJ. 

“This was my last MMA fight and the moment I knew I didn’t want to fight anymore. The moment I knocked him out I felt bad. Jason also had a daughter like myself and I immediately thought of her the moment he hit the canvas floor. I knew I wanted to dedicate myself fully back to Jiu-Jitsu this very moment,” DeBlass said.

Tom DeBlass as a Professor and Coach

Having trained with old school BJJ legends, such as Renzo Gracie, Ryan Gracie and Ricardo Almeida, Tom DeBlass is able to offer the best of both old school and new school BJJ techniques to his students. Jiu-Jitsu techniques evolve over time, and Tom is able to demonstrate this very effectively.

His students are always appreciative of his unique ability to break down complex techniques into something that’s easier to digest for BJJ students across all levels. This makes his seminars well-sought-after. This innate gift is also evident in the instructional videos that Tom DeBlass released, which have become among the fastest-selling instructionals in the BJJ world.

Tom DeBlass Victory
Tom DeBlass Victory

Half Domination, Tom’s first instructional series, was well-received and garnered great reviews. Tom’s half guard game is nothing short of wicked, and he explains his techniques, variations, and transitions in detail in this series. He also discusses sweeps and submissions in half guard. 

Following Half Domination, Tom released his second instructional which focuses on his workout approach and proper nutrition for the BJJ community and beyond. 

Tom DeBlass released more instructionals after that, such as Submission Escapes, High Tech BJJ in the Gi, The Butterfly Half Guard, Closed Guard Domination, Kimura Domination, Leg Attack Domination, Deep Half Guard Domination, Solo and Partner Drills for Rapid Improvement, Middle Aged BJJ, The Road to Black Belt and Beyond, and Framing Domination. 

Tom’s videos are considered some of the best BJJ video series on the market as he is an excellent teacher and really knows how to get the right information across to the student. 

During the pandemic, Tom DeBlass has been one of the most active coaches online, providing classes and support to both students and academy owners. He also treats BJJ fanatics to the second installment of Half Guard Domination. 

Throughout his instructional series, Tom DeBlass delves into vital aspects that help BJJ practitioners develop and become better in the sport. He doesn’t only focus on techniques, but he also teaches proper workouts, nutrition, and mindset. He’s truly a walking Mr. Jiu-Jitsu who’s there for his students, team, and the entire BJJ community.

Tom DeBlass Teaching BJJ
Tom DeBlass Teaching BJJ

Tom DeBlass has also been booking seminars worldwide. On September 24, 2021, FloSports held the FloGrappling Seminar Series: Gordon Ryan and Tom DeBlass. In 2022, he is scheduled to teach in week-long training retreats in the US and in Costa Rica. Tom’s seminars are considered the best of the best, he is really approachable and due to the fact his degree is in education, he truly excels at successfully teaching students at BJJ seminars.

What’s Next for Tom DeBlass?

Tom DeBlass made news when he signed with OneFC on May 17, 2020. His trip to Asia to corner Tonon for a ONE Championship bout, alongside ONE Championship Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong’s warm approach, reignited his passion for the sport. It also made him un-retire and announce his return to MMA. 

“I remember the first time I went to corner Garry Tonon, the owner of ONE, Chatri Sityodtong, approached me like he knew me for years. I was so impressed with him, his staff, and the fans. I watched the event, the fighters, the respect, and I immediately loved MMA again. I loved the code of the Samurai, and no organization emulates this code like ONE,” DeBlass wrote in a Facebook post.

Tom DeBlass will fight in either the Light-Heavyweight or Heavyweight divisions. There are, however, no details yet as to when he’s going to debut and who he’s fighting next. Fans are speculating a match with UFC legend and recent signing Vitor Belfort or  Muay Thai and Kickboxing champion, Alain Ngalani.

Tom DeBlass Leglock
Tom DeBlass Leglock

The BJJ legend has been busy training his students. He’s also training the security guard from the Dillon Danis incident for free for 1 year. He continually posts pictures from his training and workout sessions, as well as heartfelt insights that speak out against negativity.

This prolific BJJ and MMA title-holder has proven that he’s not just a force to be reckoned with on the mats, but he’s also an inspiration to the entire BJJ community and beyond.

In Conclusion

Tom DeBlass has shown us what a true warrior is, he has been a true lion on the mats and in the cage while being a true example off the mats. 

He has shown us that Jiu-Jitsu can truly help in every aspect of our lives and that it not only builds a rock solid body but rock solid character as well. Grapplezilla is a huge fan of Tom DeBlass and we always look forward to his awesome social media posts and daily sharing of his wisdom.


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